Each and every one of us is part of this rapidly expanding universe our planet calls home. Every day, every moment, we have an opportunity to grow and transform like planet Earth. Or we can contract and remain stuck and afraid, regrettably, like too many of us.
Expanding instead of contracting starts the moment we say YES to life.
The first step I take when I work with a client is to get her to articulate her goals and dreams for the future. This can be uncomfortable and scary for many people, but it’s necessary for success. Whether she wants to lose weight, expand spirituality, change careers or find love, she can’t move forward, have a breakthrough and create an extraordinary life until she commits to saying YES to life.
Saying YES to life is powerful. It moves you from “trying” or “hoping” to “I am,” “I can,” “I will.” Saying yes allows you to take advantage of opportunities, harness the energy available in the present moment and act… instead of contract. When you say yes to life you see circumstances, and your life, in a new light. You attract opportunities and move forward in the direction of your dreams. Yes creates a life that is rich and vibrant and flows with grace, beauty and ease.
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar. Thich Nhat Hanh
Saying no often feels safer and more comfortable. But in reality it’s a slippery, dangerous slope. NO keeps us contracted and small pushing away opportunities, friends and family. In the short term staying in our comfort zone may feel safe. But eventually you will feel stuck, depressed and anxious. In contrast saying yes and facing uncertainty… and opportunity, opens the way to expansion and endless possibilities.
So how do we move from No to Yes?
Fear is hard-wired into our brains to protect us from danger. It evolved millions of years ago when every day was a struggle to eat… or be eaten. Over millions of years our brains developed an interconnected web of regions (called the default mode network, DMN for short), which scans the past for problems and anticipates threats in the future. So yes, that prehistoric brain of yours is still watching out for the Saber Toothed Tiger that got Grandma last week. In other words, your brain is filled with fears that are no longer applicable in the modern world. Yet, fear persists.
Everyone is afraid of something, some of us, many things — success, failure, public speaking, flying, heights, bugs, snakes, strangers, blood, needles, darkness. Believe it or not, 7.6 % of people are scared of clowns and 8.9% of Americans are afraid of zombies, which don’t even exist!
In fact, most of our fears, zombies are a good example, are learned. Unless you’re in immediate danger (i.e. being chased by a mugger or you’re in a burning building), for the most part fear is in your head. In reality, people are born with only two fears — falling and loud noises. The rest, we develop on our own, in many cases, figments of our imagination.
We can’t always change our situation, but you can overcome fear by changing your thoughts. As Marcus Aurelius put it: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.”
Fear is a thought that triggers uncomfortable emotions, which impact behavior. You can rid your life of unnecessary fear by changing how you think. That’s exactly what I do to help my clients. Change the way they think about fear so they can say YES to life and all the wonderful opportunities it brings.
There’s an ancient Native American parable that says inside each of us are a pair of wolves, a good wolf and a bad wolf fighting for control. The good wolf represents all the positive emotions and outcomes generated when we say Yes to life — joy, calm, love, peace, kindness, bravery, happiness, hope, abundance, compassion, generosity, kindness and freedom. It’s the inner voice of truth that says YES to life’s possibilities.
The other wolf is the opposite. This bad boy is the voice of scarcity, fear, hatred, greed, prejudice, self-doubt, self-loathing, insecurity and envy. This wolf comes from our old reptilian brain that urges us to say no to life and stay small and safe. In the parable a grandfather is telling his grandson the story about the two wolves. The grandson asks, “Which wolf wins?” The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”
Winning the inner struggle between saying YES or NO to life isn’t easy. If being a “NO” is your default mode breaking your bad wolf addiction can be uncomfortable and scary. If you’ve spent years feeling defeated, desperate and depressed, feeding your bad wolf, it’s time to stop, take stock and think about where you are… and where you really want to be.
The good wolf is waiting for you. You just have to say YES to life and start feeding it with positive thoughts and actions.
As a psychologist, entrepreneur and author (I recently wrote a new book with my husband, The Diabetic and The Dietitian: How to Help Your Husband Defeat Diabetes Without Losing Your Mind or Marriage, Alexandria Press.), I face fear and uncertainty every day. Confronting obstacles and challenges, being creative, putting myself out into the world in a big way, trying failing and trying again are all part of a day’s work.
Whenever I step outside my comfort zone my NO wolf howls for food. Sometimes it’s hard but I’ve learned, don’t feed the beast. Rather than pushing uncomfortable emotions and fear away I accept them, feel their presence and ask what fear is teaching me? I note what thoughts triggered the wolf’s arrival… and let them go. Instead of projecting into the future or ruminating on the past, I practice mindfulness (which is one of the most powerful ways to tame fear because it deactivates the default mode network), and focus on what is happening now. I slow down and take a few deep breaths to cultivate inner calm, and then I tackle the challenge with confidence, not fear.
According to the Dalai Lama, “We are all visitors on this planet. We are here for 90 or 100 years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful with our lives.”
Need help getting to YES? Click HERE to apply for a Compass Coaching Session.